because I look like this

Things that concern me
more than anything else
stem as the thick roots
of a century old oak

grown through barbwire fencing
and around hardened stones,
immense on a hillside,

entrenched in pastoral lands
so deep and so bloodied, with its past,
it would be hard to tear out entirely,

even if uprooted
we could never forget.

It comes from death stares
so sharp your heart beats faster
and you sweat,

heads turn in a snap on the neck
at the question you just asked—

one which you just simply can’t,
and where,

in a place of research and academia,
a place where words like “fact”, “objective” and “truth”

float up as shit in
a waste facilities plant.

Even with air quotes in inquiry
a person couldn’t truly
reflect, safely,

couldn’t say a “group” idea
had nothing to do with
the individual raising a pale hand,

posing a pure question,
asking of a device with logic

and understanding
used so precisely daily—

an openness that did not come to conclusions,
in ways that would affect me
up the street on the walk,
being called a “devil’s advocate”
and “wrong”.

See, I was bothered because I don’t
believe in the devil… or any Other god.

I pointed at my face and said,
“Just because I look like this?”

They answered with a nodding “yes”.
I told them it was nice
to have this conversation

and walked across the street
dreaming of epiphanies.

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